Bicycle Network: Good Design Guides
Separated bicycle lanes - space for everyone
Separated bike lanes provide a physical separation of bike riders from motor vehicles on a road. The physical separation makes the bike lane more comfortable for a wider range of people who want to ride their bikes than a painted bike lane.
What's the problem?
Roads with traffic speeds above 40km/h and carrying more than 3000 vehicles per day are intimidating for many potential bike riders unless a separate space is provided for them to ride. Many potential riders do not have the confidence or traffic skills to ride on busier roads shared with motor vehicles.
Painted bike lanes and enhanced bike lanes provide visual separation from motor vehicles this is not enough for many riders especially on faster and busier roads.
What are the risks?
Roads provide for many bike routes as they are the most direct travel path to key destinations. But many people find using normal and even enhanced bike lanes on roads intimidating as they feel unsafe riding alongside moving motor vehicles. Off road paths might suit them better but these are usually less direct and can be more expensive to build. Making bike lanes along roads more comfortable will allow more people to ride, especially for transportation - this can be done by giving more separation (or protection) from motor vehicles and extra visibility for the bike space.
Without a separated bike lane:
- potential bike riders will avoid the road or, if it is the only reasonable route to their destination, avoid riding entirely.
- vulnerable or timid bike riders such as children or elderly will perceive cycling as unsafe and not ride at all.
Riders using a busier road without a separated bike lane risk:
- being squeezed for space by motor vehicles who fail to respond responsibly to painted lane markings and encroach on the bike lane.
- riding into a car door opened in front of them as there is insufficient room to manoeuvre if riding too close to parked cars as a result of being intimidated by moving vehicles
- being hit by a motor vehicle whose driver, through lack of awareness of the bike lane, drives in the bike lane or crosses the bike lane without giving way to people using it.
Separated bicycle lanes change the risk profile of streets. There is less chance of getting hit from behind of hitting an opened car door but more risk or being struck by a turning vehicle, especially a left turning vehicle. This applies for both one-way or two-way separated bicycle lane. Since bike riders are riding behind parked cars or street furniture rather than alongside the moving vehicles they can be less visible to motor vehicle drivers. This can be an issue when they reappear at the approach to intersections or at driveways. Especial care needs to be taken with the design of intersections and crossing points so that bike riders are protected from left turning vehicles or those entering or exiting the roadway.
What is the solution?
Provide full physical separation for bicycles from motor vehicles on busier, higher speed roads in the form of separated bike lanes or off-road paths.
In many cases painted or enhanced bike lanes on existing roads can be converted to separated bike lanes to make routes suitable for a larger proportion of the population.
New streets and roads should be designed from the outset to provide separated bike lanes or off-road paths.
Separated bike lanes can be either one-way (used in Denmark, Netherlands and Germany) or two-way (used in France, Quebec, Vancouver). See our brief paper comparing the two.
One way separated lanes (sometimes referred to generically as "copenhagen style bike lanes") are usually preferred as bike riders are travelling in the same direction as the motor vehicles and they connect and are consistent with existing bike lanes. This means that travel directions are consistent and intersections and crossing points simpler. One-way separated lanes, though, require clearances to car doors and footpath furniture on two sides of the road so require more road width than painted bike lanes.
Two-way bike lanes only require clearances on one side of the road so can require less road width. They can also provide higher capacity as riders can overtake and can connect better to any existing two way path network. The big potential drawback for two-way lanes is that, since they are on one side of the road, one direction of cycle traffic will be travelling contra-flow to the motor vehicle traffic on that side. This makes intersection design more complicated as drivers might not expect to encounter riders travelling the opposite direction to motor vehicles. In both cases the separated bicycle lane needs to be clearly marked across intersections and driveways so that drivers can see and give way to bike riders when exiting or entering the roadway. However a 2011 review of Montreal two way cycle lanes showed an increase in people cycling and a reduction in crashes.
Background - the lessons from Melbourne
In Europe (including Paris pictured above), cycle space has been reallocated to provide greater separation from motor vehicles. Placing separated cycle lanes between kerbs and parked cars has proved extremely successful in cities such as Copenhagen where 35% of the population commute to work daily.
|Copenhagen - one way cycle lane between parked cars and the footpath||Berlin - one way cycle track at the footpath level||Rio- two way cycle path alongside on a higher speed road separate to the footpath.|
Over the past decade or more, Melbourne and Victoria have established substantial transport networks by means of simple painted and enhanced cycle lanes, and to a lesser extent, advisory bike markings and routes on local streets. These have encouraged many people to cycle to and from work and for many other transport and recreational trips.
But the audience for these types of lanes, with their limited separation from busy traffic, is limited. Acknowledging that more separation is needed to allow a wider range of people to ride there has been a move to providing more separation for bicycle lanes.
The construction of the first separated, on-road lane in Melbourne was completed in July 2007 on Swanston St, between Melbourne University and RMIT in the City of Melbourne. This followed the construction of a short section of "Copenhagen style" lanes (technically "track" as the bikes are on a different level than the roadway) on Cecil St, South Melbourne alongside the South Melbourne markets. Councils around Melbourne and other major Australian urban centres are now pushing for the construction of more 'European Style Cycleways'. In Melbourne - for example Albert St in East Melbourne. These keep bike lanes on the road but encourage more people to ride by providing a more "comfortable" riding experience through greater levels of separation, visibility and protection for bike riders.
Most examples have the bike riders travelling in the same direction as the motor vehicles in bike lanes on both sides of the road. But a two way lane can also be configured on one-side of the road - for instance Fitzroy St in St Kilda. There are advantages and disadvantages to this approach - it works best when the connections to destinations and other bike routes are mostly on the same side of the road but means that access to the destinations on the opposite side is not as convenient. Care needs to be taken at intersections and crossing points as motor vehicle drivers may not expect to encounter bike riders travelling both ways and fail to look for those coming from their left.
Separated on-road lanes are an alternative to reconfiguring roads to provide separated off-road paths. An example is O'Hea St in Coburg which was reconstructed to provide a two way path on one side of the road within an existing road reservation.
What do the guidelines say?
The Austroads Guides (see extract at right) acknowledges the benefits of separated bicycle lanes and provides two options - kerb separated bicycle lanes and protected bicycle lanes - both of which are one-way lanes. The Guide recommends widths for one-way lanes of 1.8-2.0m.
What do we say about the guidelines?
The guidelines only present two options for separated bicycle lanes, both of them one-way. It seems to consider two-way lanes as paths and not part of the traffic regime. In practice, two-way lanes within the road reserve and at road level have been used successfully in many places though their classification as "lanes" (part of the roadway) or "paths" (not part of the roadway) is a matter of debate especially as it relates to current Australian road rules.
Application - a toolkit of options
1. One way between Kerb and Parked Cars - Kerbside Running Bike Lanes
This involves reallocating road space by flipping bicycle lane space with the car parking spaces. We believe the minimum width for a separated lane should be 2.0m to allow riders to pass each other.
The advantages of this method are:
- Space generally already exists within the roadway and it's therefore easy to do;
- Riders not exposed to traffic or parked cars opening doors (around 90% of car trips are single occupant);
- Generally economical as no extra asphalt etc required.
The "Copenhagen style" bike lanes on Swanston St, Melbourne are an example of Kerbside Running Bike Lanes as are the bike lanes on Albert St, Melbourne. On Swanston St the separation between the bike lane and the parked car is provided by kerb islands that you cannot ride or drive over (they are "non-mountable"). On Albert St the separation is provided by less substantial measures that you can ride or drive over if needed - chevron paint patterns, vibraline and flexible plastic poles - but parked cars prevent intrusion during most of the day. On both routes green paint is used in the bike lane to make it more visible, especially across driveways and up to intersections. The measures on Albert St are less expensive to install and may provide a model that can be used more widely in urban areas.
2. Kerbside on Raised Pavement - Cycle Tracks or Back of Kerb Separated Bike Lanes
Bicycle lanes can be separated by raising them slightly from road level to just below footpath level. In Denmark these are called "cycle tracks". This makes it difficult for motor vehicles to encroach on cycle lane space and also acts as a visual cue for pedestrians, cyclist and motorists alike that the space is for bicycles.
3. Two way separated bicycle lanes - "French Style bike lanes"
Two way separated bike lanes can be used where space is limited and there is not enough room for two one-way separated bike lanes. They have been used successfully in Paris, Montreal and Vancouver. Montreal, in particular, has an extensive network of two-way bicycle lanes some of which are separated from parked cars or motor vehicles lanes by linemarking and flexible traffic poles. Two way separated bicycle lanes are similar in function to bicycle paths or shared paths and so appeal to those riders used to using off-road paths. They also connect consistently with off-road paths.
Examples good and bad
Separated one-way bicycle lanes - consistent with motor vehicle travel but need more space
|Swanston St north, Melbourne. A solid kerb barrier separates the bike lane from the motor vehicle lane past the tram stops where parking is not allowed.|
|Swanston St north, Melbourne. Referred to as "copenhagen lanes". The bike lanes are placed between the parked cars and the kerb and separated by a solid kerb "separation strip". The strip allows people to open car doors and exit without impeding the bike lane.|
|Swanston St, Geelong. The bike lane (track) runs behind the kerb of the road adjacent to the footpath. This is similar to the arrangement in German and Dutch cities.|
|Cecil St, South Melbourne. The Austroads Guides calls this a "kerb separated bicycle lane" and in Europe it would be called a cycle "track". The bicycle lane is behind the kerb.|
Separated two-way bicycle lanes - more space efficient but intersections need attention
|King St, Sydney. Sydney has implemented a series of two way separated cycleways that separate bike riders from motor vehicle traffic. The new cycleways have seen a large increase in rider numbers despite opposition from some.|
|Yarra Boulevard, Kew a two way cycle path has been provided on this popular cycle training route. The separated cycle path also reduces the overall road width available to motor vehicles and helps prevent motor cycle crashes caused by excessive speeding.|
|Carr St, Geelong. The two way cycle path links the football stadium to the Swanston St cycle route (see above) as part of connection from the Bellarine Rail Trail, Barwon River Trail and the Bay path. In this section the bicycle lane is separated from the angled parking by kerbing that is wide enough to avoid vehicle overhang into the bicycle lane.|
|Roberts Road, Subiaco, Perth. The two way cycle path alongside the road connects to the Principal Shared Path network. Note that the path is not part of the roadway and so we've not classified it as a "lane".|
|O'Hea St, Coburg. The two way path on one side of the road replaced one-way bike lanes on the road when the road was reconstructed. Note that the path is not part of the roadway and so we've not classified it as a "lane"|
|Fitzroy St, St Kilda - painted bike lanes were converted to a two way bicycle lane on one side of the road. This allows a consistent connection from the shared path along the beachfront to the shared path in Albert Park. Green paint across intersections help increase the visibility of the lane and remind drivers to look both ways.|
Other forms of enhanced separation
Separated bicycle lanes can evolve from painted bike lanes and enhanced bike lanes as the degree of separation is increased over time. This can help build community and political support for the concept rather than jumping to fully separated lanes from the outset that may require more substantial changes to the road.
There are many other ways in which enhanced separation can be achieved, ranging from physical measures to visual cues. Some of these measures may act as a middle measure between getting from a painted lane to a fully separated lane. Some of these are:
- Kerb Extensions – bringing kerbs out at intersections to provide protection to cyclists;
- Raised, ride over platforms at intersections – these slow motor vehicles and used in conjunction with visual cues will provide for safer crossings of intersections by cyclists;
- Low profile separators - visible and tactile lane separators that can be ridden and driven over.
- Coloured Paint – Green paint has been very successful in slip lane treatments;
- Painted Chevrons with raised reflective pavement indicators (RRPI’s) – currently, many lanes have buffer separation by means of painted chevrons (see photo from Victoria Pde, North Melb). This adds a small level of separation. We believe that RRPI’s or even audible notification paint could be placed on the outside of the painted chevron area to ensure motorists are aware of the cycle lane and are discouraged from entering it.
Naturally, road reserve widths, on-street parking requirements, adjacent land use, crossovers, services etc mean that certain measures may lend themselves more easily to certain areas. We believe however, that for higher levels of modal shift, and more connected, liveable, active communities, more separation from busy traffic is needed.
Table 4.6: Considerations in the design of kerb separated bicycle lanes (from Cycling Aspects of Austroads Guides (2011) - see right)
Figure 4.6: Location and typical cross-section of kerb separated bicycle lane (from Cycling Aspects of Austroads Guides (2011) - see right)
Figure 4.8: Typical cross-section of a separated protected bicycle lane (from Cycling Aspects of Austroads Guides (2011) - see right)
Note: Example is a typical cross-section constructed in Melbourne with a bicycle lane width of 2 m.